Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bill C-389 - another step closer for trans human rights

Well, there was a 'standing vote' at the 'report stage' of the 3rd reading of Bill C-389 in Canada's parliament today. this bill is a motion to amend the Canadian Human Rights Code to add gender identity and gender expression to the prohibited grounds of discrimination section; as well, it will add gender identity and gender expression to the Criminal Code of Canada in the section pertaining to hate crimes.

This is a private member's bill that is open to a free vote (meaning that individual members of parliament may vote as they please and do not have to vote in accordance with political party platform or positions). the vote was passed with 143 yays, and 136 nays. the majority of liberals supported the bill, while the majority of conservatives did not. i have no information with regards to how others voted. but i do know that the following 'exceptions' occurred, as reported by magazine:

Conservatives who voted in favour:

-Lawrence Cannon
-James Moore
-Gerald Keddy
-Shelly Glover
-Sylvie Boucher

Liberals who voted against:
-Dan McTeague
-Alan Tonks
-Jim Karygyannis

-Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia
-Conservative Lisa Raitt
-Conservative Dona Cadman

Conspicuous absences:
-Prime Minister Stephen Harper
-John Baird (at the Cancun conference)

I also know that two prominent Liberals voted in favour, including party leader Michael Ignatieff (my former MP when i lived in the western part of Toronto), and Siobhan Coady, MP for St. John's South / Mount Pearl, in Newfoundland.

Siobhan and I have exchanged words on a variety of occasion. She has expressed her personal support for this bill, and went so far as to give me a personal phone call today from Ottawa to make it known that not only was she supporting the bill, but that she had me in mind today as she voted. With this in mind, I'd like to publicly acknowledge and thank Siobhan not only for her vote today, but for her willingness to meet with me and discuss trans-related government policy issues on multiple occasions in the past. I'm not one to give political endorsements, and i won't do that now, but from a personal perspective, it appears that Siobhan is 100% genuine in her interest in helping out the trans community, and for that, she deserves credit and recognition.

Of course, this bill would not have happened if it wasn't for the work of NDP MP Bill Siksay, who penned the bill and put it forward in the house.

This is not the first time that such legislation has been presented to the House. on previous occasions, a similar bill died while going through the process, because apparently all unresolved bills get terminated when a federal election occurs.

Unfortunately, this exact same situation could occur, as the next stage of the complex bill processing process will not occur until late February, where there will be further debate and an additional and final vote.

As has been well documented here on my site, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador recently rejected the opportunity to provide directly-cited Human Rights protection for people under the grounds of gender identity and gender expression, under their newly revised and launched Human Rights Act.

The main opponents of this bill appear to be religious fundamentalists who believe that transgendered people are apparently a threat to public safety. Some are going to far to suggest that this bill will allow sexual predators to have access to public washrooms. this is clearly a ridiculous and non-existent threat. Transsexuals have been using public washrooms of their choice for many years. there are no official laws in Canada affecting the use of public washrooms.

i believe the statistics show that the majority of sexual predators are heterosexual males who are not trans in any way. likewise, you can search everywhere on the internet, newspapers, and tv archives. i guarantee you won't find even one story about a transsexual (transman or transwoman) who has molested children in public washrooms. i also believe that it is extremely rare for a sexual predator to pose as the opposite sex, while conducting their crime.

With regards to the claim that sexual predators will pose as transpeople specifically because they want to gain washroom access, well, as mentioned, there's no current law preventing people from using any washroom they darn well please. Will this bill make it more politically or socially acceptable for cisgendered men to use the ladies washroom, or vise versa? i say definitely not.

For those who are still concerned and want to police their washroom access, the simple solution is to require either proof of legal sex, or proof of transsexualism. Let's not forget that transsexualism is a biological medical condition. this requires medical intervention; which means that transsexuals have to see medical professionals, and will obtain medical letters. A so-called real trans person will have a medical letter stating such. Obviously, sexual predators will not have such a letter.

Ultimately, i hate to say it, but i think this Bill is likely to fail, unless some critical terminology and definitions can be formally created and recognized by Government. As was cited here Provincially, it is very tough to provide protection for a specific classification that is not clearly defined. with this in mind, steps need to be taken to define specifically, not only what gender identity and gender expression means, but under what context would such a matter come into play. Defining what is a transperson and what is a 'non-transperson pretending to be trans' is a very gray area. transgenderism is an umbrella term that represents all things trans. this includes everything from a classically-identified 'true transsexual', to your 'non-ops', to your drag queens, to your 'confused/questioning' and perhaps may even include 'transsexual impersonator sexual predators' (i.e. the sexual predators who religious leaders are trying to convince exist).

ultimately, what matters most here is that there is a very vulnerable small group of Canadians who face extreme daily discrimination from both private and government individual and entities. it isn't about washrooms. this is about transpeople struggling to obtain fair access to basic human needs, such as housing, health care, employment, and physical safety.
the fact that 136 members of parliament voted against this thing is a disturbing sign that at least some folks feel that providing equal human rights to everyone is not politically correct.

If this bill does fail, then government and taxpayers will have to pay another price - legal bills! The one way to force politically correctness, is to get an order from the judicial system. minorities over the years, have often gone to court, and won, over matters pertaining to human rights. this can and will be no exception. To deny someone, such as me, access to health care funding, or to reject my application for employment because of my gender identity and gender expression is clearly something that appears to be morally wrong, regardless of what laws are or aren't in place.

The pendulum of public opinion appears to be swinging. after years of transpeople being portrayed on televisions shows as freaks, the tv coverage as of late appears to be 100% positive. trans people are people, and we do many things that everyone else does, and we strive to achieve and attain the same things, and we need the same things to survive and thrive in this world. Most people i know seem to get it. It's time for politicians to get up to speed here! i'm sure there will be an official list posted very soon that will detail who supported this bill and who didn't. now is the time for transpeople and their supporters to get in touch and lobby for inclusion, acceptance, and human rights for all.


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